The Field Ministry
The oddest part of JW life has to be the field ministry. It is also the one activity that defines a person as a JW.
Let’s get ready for field service.
You must have a field-service bag (aka bookbag) to take with you. Since you will be carrying it for long periods of time, it should be lightweight. It also must look presentable and dignified – no beat up canvas tote bags from Myrtle Beach allowed. There is a company that makes vinyl witnessing bags for JWs, along with other accessories. Otherwise, you have to cull through the briefcases, tote bags, and purses that were made for other purposes to try to find one that will translate easily to a field-service bag.
You have to be able to access your literature, Bible, and other items without fumbling around and actually giving the householder a chance to think twice about his level of interest, so dividers /and or pockets are desirable.Inside the bag you must have:
- “Reasoning From the Scriptures” – a book that presents common objections and topics raised by householders along with helpful scriptures and information. The Truly Dedicated JWs have sent their Reasoning book and Bible away to be bound together in a single volume. The rest of us slobs have to carry two books.
- Multiple copies of whatever the current offer is, whether it is magazines (Saturdays) or a particular book (every other day of the week).
- Free tracts to either break the ice or leave in the door.
- Out-of-date magazines to leave in the door if the person is not at home (or hiding).
- The Daily Text and Comments booklet (for the field service meeting).
- Your return-visit book, a little notebook where you record the address, name, and other pertinent info about anyone who takes the literature or shows interest.
- House-to-house slips to record the results of a stop at each house/apartment in the territory covered that day.
- A dignified-looking pen.
- ID/wallet, since you can’t carry your purse with you too.
- Comb/mirror/breath mints/Kleenex/lip balm – whatever you need to keep you looking presentable in all weathers.
There’s no way to avoid lugging around a heavy bag, so a shoulder strap is a plus.
Once your bag is equipped, you need a presentation. A suggested presentation is located in the monthly 4-page flyer called “Our Kingdom Ministry” that is handed out to all publishers (JWs who are actively preaching). Memorize the suggested presentation, but personalize it so it doesn’t sound canned. Usually you have to read at least one scripture (if anyone lets you get that far), so make sure you can find it quickly.
Now get dressed. Males must wear dress slacks, shirt, and shoes, along with a necktie and, depending on the weather, a suit jacket or dress coat. Females must wear a modest skirt and blouse or dress, pantyhose, and dress sandals or shoes. In cold weather, clean boots in good repair and a clean winter dress coat are worn. You must keep in mind that you will be walking through mud, up staircases of varying sturdiness, and fending off dogs (bookbags are priceless for this function – just feed the dog your bookbag) and irate householders.
Take yourself to the meeting for field service, and please, be on time. Rushing in at the last minute with five kids in tow will play hell with the car groups already organized.
Whoever is in charge that day will go over the Daily Text, and, since it’s early in the day, anyone who isn’t comatose will raise their hand to answer any questions posed. Then comes the fun part. The leader will ask, “Does anyone have any prior arrangements?” and half of the people present will say something like, “My wife and I are planning to do some return visits in [insert name of distant town]” meaning they’re only here as a pretense, don’t want anyone to go with them, and are really going to do a couple of calls and then go shopping; or, “I have a Bible study at 10:00, and Sister Jones is coming with me. We’ll need someone to take the kids with them for an hour,” or, “I have to quit at 11:00;” or “I’d like to work with Sister Gossip.” The poor guy conducting the group now has to take all of this information and try to divide up the group into car groups of 4 or 5 people.
First question: “Who has a car available?” Translation: “Who is willing to spend the next 3 hours making sudden turns, traversing the worst driveways in America and backing around in tiny dooryards, while allowing whoever is in your car to drag in snow, mud, and gravel, and grind raisins and Cheerios into the carpeting and upholstery?” A few hands will go up. Then the fun begins.
You can’t make a group of one adult and three kids, and you can’t end up with a group consisting of a male and female adult who are not married to each other, and you can’t send out someone who is new to the process without an experienced JW. Once the groups are formed and territory is assigned (more about that next week) off you go for the duration.
Next week: Out in the Field or How to Feel Good About Bothering Your Neighbors.